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The biggest organization of business owners in Zamboanga City criticized the use of the government’s digital contact-tracing applications as “anti-poor and ill-conceived.”
Pocholo Soliven, president of the Zamboanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation Inc. (ZCCIFI), filed a June 25 resolution through the Economic Recovery Cluster of the Regional Inter-agency Task Force (RIATF) in Zamboanga Peninsula to review the effects of various COVID-19-related applications.
Soliven, also the private sector representative to the RIATF, asked the government to revisit the implementation of the StaySafe application after receiving complaints from Zamboanga business owners and consumers.
StaySafe.ph is the contact-tracing platform endorsed by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), and is being used by local governments.
On May 31, Zamboanga Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar issued Executive Order No. 657-2021 for the mandatory adoption of the application as the official digital contact-tracing system in the city.
Such an adoption would include the mandatory registration for all businesses and the use of “one uniform quick response (QR) code on all entrances or visible spots.”
Section 3 also provides mandatory registration for all residents by downloading or registering one’s self using the StaySafe app and securing a QR Code, which can be stored on one’s phone or printed as a personal copy.
‘Anti-poor’ and an added cost
Business owners however complained about the system, saying its mandated use translates to additional expenses and diminished sales for entities already experiencing financial difficulty.
ZCCIFI treasurer Eric Harina, president of the local poultry association and operator of a chain of roast chicken kiosks, described the “arbitrary implementation” as “anti-poor.”
Customers who fail to present the required QR code are in some cases merely turned away by establishments, for fear of the business being fined by the government.
Soliven lamented as well that not all customers have the required gadgets or technical knowledge to use the app.
Based on the order, a StaySafe task force conducts regular inspections on all establishments to ensure compliance.
Private establishments that fail to comply with the executive order face fines of up to P5,000 and the suspension of their franchise or business permits for three months.
At present, some Zamboanga businesses have learned to balance their operation with contact-tracing protocols by providing logbooks where customers can sign in.
Climaco, however, has yet to amend or lift the executive order and has not responded to the business group’s statement.
Soliven proposed having one universal contact-tracing application to prevent confusion among residents. While StaySafe is the only application mandated for use, there is also an S-Pass application used for travel purposes.
He also asked the government to review all proposed or mandated COVID-19-related programs to prevent not only confusion and hardship but indifference in a pandemic-weary community. – Rappler.com